The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

The Wash. Post’s Sorry Coverage of Chocolate Milk

April 12th, 2011 · 6 Comments · Posted in kids, school food

Kids love sugar any which way

The most popular story in today’s Washington Post concerns the “controversy” over flavored milk in schools. Two jurisdictions in the paper’s readership area–the District of Columbia and Fairfax County–have recently banned milk with added sugar from their cafeterias. But because of complaints from the community, Fairfax County this month announced that it is re-introducing chocolate milk, except with cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup.

As if there’s a difference!

Too bad the Post reporter behind the story didn’t do a little more homework. He might have reported how D.C. parents have pressed to eliminate flavored milk and the incredibly sugary breakfasts Chartwells routinely was serving in D.C. schools, and how sugar unregulated by school meal standards has no place on the menu in the middle of an obesity epidemic.

He might have mentioned the recent report from the Institute of Medicine finding that children are not suffering a “calcium crisis,” as the dairy industry would have us believe.

He might have noted that prominent nutritionists, such as Walter Willett, head of the nutriton department at Harvard University, declare that milk is not an essential nutrient.

Or that the “study” so often cited by the dairy industry as indicating kids won’t drink milk if it doesn’t have sugar in it was really no study at all. It was paid for by the dairy industry!

Or that the problem with chocolate milk–or strawberry milk, or root beer flavored, or grape flavored–isn’t the calories, it’s the metabolic effects of sugar directly linked to obesity and a host of serious health problems, such as diabetes, hypertension, and coronary artery disease. Sugar is a key player in the so-called “metabolic syndrome.”

Healthy school food advocates really need to get their talking points in order on the issue of flavored milk. It’s not enough to compare chocolate milk with apple pie. People like apple pie too much. There are plenty of scientifically sound reasons to object to sugary milk served in schools. Reporters for powerful media outlets such as The Washington Post should  know what they are.

Fortunately, D.C. Public Schools officials–most importantly food services director Jeffrey Mills–are sticking by their decision to keep sugary milk off the menu. This is something we now want to encode in the district’s wellness policy.

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  • Lauren

    There’s ROOTBEER FLAVOURED milk!? That’s. so. wrong. for so many reasons.

  • Aaron Lee

    I hate to think that chocolate milk would leave school lunch. (Although, root beer flavored sounds disgusting and should be poured out of
    cafeterias). I was wondering if there is an argument being made in the school lunch arena that says chocolate milk (or whatever nutritionally-heretical habit) could be spared the axe by simply limiting availability to once a week, or perhaps twice a month. Serve it on Fridays.

    Aaron Lee
    Lynchburg Grows

  • Ivana Kadija

    Thank you Ed, for putting it all so clearly. It is embarrassing to read the coverage of this topic by major papers. Do these journalists actually do any research beyond quoting representatives of dubious organizations? Where are the quotes from endocrinologists? You know the people who actually know what your body does with what you eat. Or, maybe a biologist, who could tell you that sugar is acidifying and acid LEECHES minerals from you bones. Intake – which the Dairy Board loves to harp about – is irrelevant.

    If we could get everyone dealing with the facts about sugar, we could start tackling some real issues in our country, like… obesity, diabetes, fatty liver, even substance abuse. And that’s just with our kids. Most adults are pretty aware of the effect sugar has on them. The cravings, the inability to stop eating it, the constant thinking about it. Few realize the dramatic effect it has on our metabolic system or that it is a chronic liver toxin… in fact it has been described as “alcohol without the buzz”. (see Dr. Lustig’s “The Bitter Truth”)

    If that’s too abstract for most readers… I have a real life example. My 7 year old stole her teacher’s Jolly Ranchers bag yesterday. Yes, stole it. She was going to put it back but the teacher locked the door before she was able to. Through whole-body sobs, she told me her mind said “no” but her body said “yes” and she just couldn’t stop herself. Sound familiar?

    As a parent and school food advocate I found myself in several binds. I wanted her to face the consequences of theft. And, tomorrow she will have to admit to her teacher that she did this and maybe get sent to the principal’s office where she has never been sent before. Only the “bad” kids get sent. Now she is one of the them. A “bad” kid. Her biggest anguish is that all the teachers will know, including Ms. Whitthauer, her favorite teacher, who might not think as highly of her any longer. How sad that a 7 year old would have to face this kind of emotional turmoil. And, for what? Because we adults can’t think of any better way to say “thank you”, “good job”, “let’s have fun”, “good bye”? Because we can’t figure out how to get nutritious calories into our school meals, so we cram them full of cheap (because it’s subsidized by our tax dollars) sugars.

    I am not making excused for her behavior, but I do feel that it is an incredible double standard in our schools to not allow candy to be brought to school by students and drone on and on about how important it is to eat your veggies, while using sugar as teaching tools, reward learning with sugar (kind of like training your dog, I guess) and serving sugary foods at every single school event, at snack bars, in vending machines and, of course, in the breakfast and lunch meal.

    I see no difference between this and putting bags of cocaine around the office of a drug addict. Well, I guess I do, most drug addicts are not seven years old. Or are they?

  • Ed Bruske

    Ivana, we hope to be addressing this issue on our new wellness policy. It’s like herding cats.

  • Ivana Kadija

    Ed, you truly have your finger on the pulse… Did anyone else catch this week’s “Is Sugar Toxic?” in the NYT? Perhaps the single most important piece of nutritional analysis in the last several decades. We forwarded to our school board members and administration to help support the School Health Advisory Board’s Wellness Policy recommendations to significantly limit sugar in the schools. That’s rewards, vending, snack bars, celebrations and, of course, breakfast!

  • Ed Bruske

    Ivana, Gary Taubes and Robert Lustig are two people I follow closely. I think it’s fair to say they follow each other pretty closely. I’ll be writing more about this soon.